Flipper 720 Realtime Build Log Part 1: August 27-28, 2016

I compete almost every year at Robot Battles, one of the oldest robotic competitions in the world. This year I built a brand new robot, “Big Blue Saw Presents Flipper 720”. As part of the build process, I decided to post, in real-time, the process of turning a big pile of parts into a working robot. It took nearly 3 days of work.

The original information was posted to a popular social network message board, one which doesn’t really support easy exporting. At the suggestion of one group member, I decided later to re-post to my blog. So I had to a bit of scraping and re-formatting to get it here. My apologies for any mistakes in the formatting.

Hopefully this will give you an idea of the kind of work it takes to get ready for a competition. This stage always takes way longer than I anticipate. Note that most of the design was done before the narrative below starts, plus a bunch of waterjet cutting, trimming pieces of nutstrip, soldering leads to the motors, greasing the gearboxes, other odds and ends.
Let’s begin the Saturday morning before the competition…
August 27 at 10:50am

Robot Battles prep. Stuff temporarily tacked together.

No automatic alt text available.
Will Bales, Jamie Price and 21 others
Charles Guan
Charles Guan asymmetric bot is best bot
August 27 at 10:54am


Andrew Burghgraef What gearbox is that on the lifter?
August 27 at 10:54am


Simon Arthur
Simon Arthur It’s a Dewalt screwdriver.
August 27 at 11:19am


Lewis Baumstark
Lewis Baumstark 360 lifter? Because those are hella fun.
August 27 at 11:04am


Simon Arthur
Simon Arthur Yes, a 360 lifter/clamper/whacker.
1 Like August 27 at 11:20am


Simon Arthur

Simon Arthur So I don’t forget where the wires go.

August 27 at 11:21am


Simon Arthur

Simon Arthur Clearing out the waterjet cut holes for the bearings

August 27 at 11:45am


Simon Arthur

Simon Arthur All but one of the drive bushings went in by hand.

August 27 at 11:58am


Simon Arthur

Simon Arthur Widening the bushing with a letter W drill. I know you’re not supposed to do this because it closes up the oil pores.

1 Like August 27 at 12:04pm


Lewis Baumstark
Lewis Baumstark Simon pioneers the “Instructable in Real Time”
4 Likes August 27 at 12:05pm


Simon Arthur

Simon Arthur The right side doesn’t line up correctly.

August 27 at 12:19pm


Simon Arthur

Simon Arthur Definitely was a design problem. The difference is 0.0131 inches on the mount point on the baseplate. Time to widen the mount holes on the baseplate.

August 27 at 12:57pm


Simon Arthur

Simon Arthur Slave labor

3 Likes August 27 at 1:06pm


Simon Arthur

Simon Arthur A little fuzzy but it shows how the holes need to move.

Simon Arthur's photo.
August 27 at 1:16pm


Simon Arthur

Simon Arthur Chisel and file little notches in the direction we want the hole to move.

August 27 at 1:30pm


Simon Arthur

Simon Arthur Back to the drill press

August 27 at 1:38pm


Simon Arthur
Simon Arthur15/64 drill
August 27 at 2:08pm


Simon Arthur

Simon Arthur Chip cleanup

August 27 at 1:41pm


Charles Guan
Charles Guan hey simon you should put this on a website that isn’t facenet so it exists for more than 3 days 🙂
3 Likes August 27 at 1:41pm


Simon Arthur

Simon Arthur Qapla’

August 27 at 1:49pm


Simon Arthur

Simon Arthur Battery box is a little tight.

August 27 at 1:58pm


Simon Arthur

Simon Arthur Room now for foam padding

August 27 at 2:03pm


Simon Arthur
Simon Arthur I’ll clip of that tab that’s in the way of the battery lead later.
August 27 at 2:10pm


Simon Arthur
Simon Arthur

Simon Arthur Bottom pad marked up

August 27 at 2:04pm


Simon Arthur

Simon Arthur Battery padding fabrication.

August 27 at 2:08pm


Simon Arthur

Simon Arthur Mounting the power disconnect housings. I found these blue power pole accessories that have holes for this kind of mount.

August 27 at 2:25pm


Simon Arthur
Simon Arthur Soundtrack: Tron Reloaded by Daft Punk.
2 Likes August 27 at 2:27pm


Simon Arthur
Simon Arthur Lunch break
August 27 at 2:34pm


Simon Arthur

Simon Arthur Lunch break is over. I clearly have too much stuff so it’s time to organize. Hardware for the next couple build phases is in the left box. Everything else is in the right box.

August 27 at 3:42pm


Simon Arthur

Simon Arthur Trimming the wire for the other half of the disconnect.

August 27 at 3:45pm


Simon Arthur

Simon Arthur Crimping the disconnect wire

August 27 at 4:06pm


Simon Arthur
Simon Arthur Time out to watch the baby for a while.
August 27 at 4:07pm


Simon Arthur

Simon Arthur There was barely enough wire to make the bend so I had to squeeze the connectors in place with channel locks.

August 27 at 4:49pm


Simon Arthur

Simon Arthur The disconnect is mounted just a tad too far forward so I’m going to have to drill new holes to move it more towards the back.

August 27 at 4:51pm


Simon Arthur

Simon Arthur Locating the correct spot with a hole center finding punch.

August 27 at 4:59pm


Simon Arthur
Simon Arthur 11/64 inch
August 27 at 5:01pm


Simon Arthur
Simon Arthur

Simon Arthur You can just barely see the spot where the punch touched against the black Sharpie marker I laid down

Simon Arthur's photo.
August 27 at 5:00pm


Simon Arthur

Simon Arthur Lining up to clip the extra tab off of the battery box end.

August 27 at 5:13pm


Simon Arthur

Simon Arthur Drilling out the mounting holes for the disconnect

August 27 at 5:18pm


Simon Arthur

Simon Arthur The disconnect is now in position closer to the slide open door. I’ll need a better way to remove the link as it’s hard to fit my fingers in there.

August 27 at 6:01pm


Simon Arthur

Simon Arthur The wheel bushings are a little tight so I’m going to try the letter W drill on them.

August 27 at 5:32pm


Simon Arthur

Simon Arthur Feels a little sloppy. I may have to try something else or see how it fits with the key in place.

August 27 at 5:36pm


Andrew Burghgraef
Andrew Burghgraef Why not use a V drill? 0.11 oversize is a lot. The ideal option is a brand new 3/8″ reamer
1 Like August 27 at 5:37pm


Simon Arthur
Simon Arthur A great idea, unfortunately I don’t have either on hand. I don’t think Home Depot or Lowe’s carry them. Maybe Harbor Freight…
August 27 at 5:40pm


Alex Horne
Alex Horne spin the gearmotor and take like 600 grit emery cloth to it to take the shaft a couple thou undersize
Simon Arthur 1 Like August 27 at 5:42pm


Andrew Burghgraef
Andrew Burghgraef Doesn’t even need to be a couple thou. 0.0005″ oversize is a sliding fit on a dowel. Doesn’t take much to go from snug to too loose if you’re dealing with precise fits. The looser the fit, the faster it’ll get more sloppy
Simon Arthur 1 Like August 27 at 5:51pm


Alex Horne
Alex Horne these are robot part fits. i don’t trust the banebots shafts to that kind of concentrically.
Simon Arthur 1 Like August 27 at 5:53pm


Simon Arthur
Simon Arthur Harbor Freight only sells sets and the only Ace Hardware open until 6:30 says they don’t have it.
August 27 at 6:00pm


Simon Arthur

Simon Arthur Might just go for this. HF is < 2 miles from my house. Any my daughter is asking to go to the mall. http://www.harborfreight.com/115-pc-high-speed-steel…

High Speed Steel Drill Bit Set with Index, Piece
August 27 at 6:19pm


Andrew Burghgraef
Andrew Burghgraef Should be fine especially drilling softer stuff. Start with the 3/8″ bit though, most twist drills drill oversize.
August 27 at 6:25pm


Simon Arthur

Simon Arthur In the Harbor Freight parking lot.

August 27 at 6:44pm


Alex Horne
Alex Horne i do not see a harbor fart in the background
August 27 at 6:45pm


Lewis Baumstark
Lewis Baumstark With a car like that, you must be at the Ashford-Dunwoody location

August 27 at 7:07pm


Simon Arthur
Simon Arthur Indeed.
August 27 at 7:13pm


Andrew Burghgraef
Andrew Burghgraef Meh, it’s a replica 😛 they’re definitely a very nice appearing car if build right (unless someone is crazy end gh to drive one to a store, they’re worth like $600+k for an original cobra, hence why they’re the most reproduced car in the world)
August 27 at 7:15pm


Simon Arthur
Simon Arthur Gotta wrangle everyone together for the trip out. I loaded up the HF 20% off coupon on my phone.
August 27 at 6:29pm


Simon Arthur

Simon ArthurJust me and the baby at HF

1 Like August 27 at 6:47pm


Simon Arthur
Simon Arthur Cooking dinner for the kids.
August 27 at 7:34pm


Simon Arthur

Simon Arthur Most of daddy’s cooking involves bacon.

August 27 at 7:48pm


Simon Arthur
Simon Arthur Tilapia. I have to hit the glaze with a torch.
August 27 at 8:08pm


Simon Arthur

Simon Arthur

August 27 at 8:09pm


Simon Arthur

Simon Arthur

August 27 at 8:12pm


Simon Arthur

Simon Arthur With the kids going to bed I organize some of the hardware into my new Harbor Freight Parts storage case.

1 Like August 27 at 9:37pm


Simon Arthur

Simon Arthur I hit the bushing with the old 3/8 inch drill my new Harbor Freight 3/8 inch drill and now I’m trying the letter V drill.

August 27 at 10:33pm


Simon Arthur
Simon Arthur It works, but is a little too tight the first time the wheels go on. After that, it’s not so bad.
August 27 at 10:44pm


Simon Arthur

Simon Arthur Brought to you by the letter v.

Simon Arthur's photo.
1 Like August 27 at 10:55pm


Charles Guan
Charles Guan not singles, not duallies, but QUADS
August 27 at 10:58pm


Andrew Burghgraef
Andrew Burghgraef a V drill is only 0.377 so just big enough for some more clearance. Glad it worked out for ya.
August 27 at 11:35pm


Simon Arthur

Simon Arthur Pressing new hubs into the wheel that was drilled too large earlier.

1 Like August 27 at 11:16pm


Simon Arthur

Simon Arthur Installed a missing nutstrip. In all my organizing I noticed that I have button head screws which are left over from last year’s build. They’re lower profile and look a lot better.

August 27 at 11:17pm


Simon Arthur

Simon Arthur Reinstalling the newly trimmed battery box end. You can see that this is water jet cut and uses Tab and Slot Construction.

August 27 at 11:25pm


Simon Arthur

Simon Arthur Placing the top on I noticed that there’s some interference between the top and the nuts at the end of the weapon motor mount.

August 27 at 11:41pm


Simon Arthur
Simon Arthur Marked it for trimming later.
August 27 at 11:52pm


Simon Arthur
Simon Arthur

Simon Arthur Testing battery fit. I I think it might be a little tight getting the connector in and out. I also need to hot glue the padding in place

August 27 at 11:45pm


Simon Arthur

Simon Arthur Hot gluing the final pad for the battery box to the battery box cover.

August 27 at 11:57pm


Simon Arthur
Simon Arthur Soundtrack: Deep & Dope 116 by JaBig.
August 28 at 12:01am


Simon Arthur

Simon Arthur This is roughly the battery removal procedure.

August 28 at 12:11am


Andrew Burghgraef
Andrew Burghgraef With its own video I was expecting dzus fasteners or something 😛
August 28 at 12:15am


Simon Arthur
Simon Arthur I plan to switch to thumbscrews at some point so I can reduce the tools needed to change the battery.
August 28 at 12:16am


Andrew Burghgraef
Andrew Burghgraef I need to pull 12 screws (8 of which are in dowels nuts so a nightmare at times to go back in at times, then 4 more for the 2 battery straps) so you’re doing pretty good imo. In the event of a lipo fire it’ll melt the cover so ya just dump it out. I wouldn’t be too concerned, not like your ever need to rush a battery swap
August 28 at 12:19am


Simon Arthur
Simon Arthur Andrew Burghgraef The less I have to worry about at the competition the better. If under stress I can’t find a screwdriver I still want to be able to change the battery. And time is always a factor.
August 28 at 12:40am


Lewis Baumstark
Lewis Baumstark Can you leave one screw in and rotate the cover off the battery? Or would the cover still interfere?
August 28 at 7:57am


Simon Arthur
Simon Arthur Lewis Baumstark Probably would work. Wiring is up next this morning after I eat and start on a family sized ice tea.
August 28 at 11:26am


Simon Arthur

Simon Arthur Turn on turn off procedure. A possible Improvement here is to add some tracks to the sides so that the removable link can be guided into place.

1 Like August 28 at 12:39am


Simon Arthur
Simon Arthur Soundtrack: Roky Erickson & The Aliens: The Evil One
August 28 at 1:05am


Simon Arthur

Simon Arthur I use this plastic strapping stuff and punch holes in it to create tie down points for my electronics.

August 28 at 1:41am


Simon Arthur

Simon Arthur Positioning the electronics.

August 28 at 2:16am


Simon Arthur

Simon Arthur

August 28 at 2:24am


Simon Arthur
Simon Arthur Well, I can feel my productivity slipping. So I’m calling it quits for tonight. Still left to do: wiring, figuring out how to mount the radio receiver, mounting the arm to the motor, setting up an axle and bearing for the arm opposite the motor, paint,cutting 1/8″ keys for the wheels, installing the second set of waterjet cut parts (not available until Monday), trimming the excess off the top in the weapon area, installing washers on top of the drive motors, final assembly, testing.

August 28 at 2:39am


Charles Guan
Charles Guan dammit simon…. you’re making me look bad
August 28 at 2:45am


Simon Arthur
Simon Arthur If it’s any consolation, I think I’m about to go over weight.
August 28 at 2:46am


Simon Arthur
Simon Arthur Also if you’ve got any suggestions for saving this thread, let me know.
August 28 at 2:47am


Lewis Baumstark

Lewis Baumstark Maybe https://storify.com/ ? The twitters use it and it seems to have facebook integration.

Or you could just copy/paste it into Instructables.

Create stories using social media. Turn what people post on social media into compelling stories. Collect the best photos, video, tweets and more to publish them as simple, beautiful stories that can be embedded anywhere.
August 28 at 8:01am


Andrew Burghgraef
Andrew BurghgraefOr make a team page and post it all there
August 28 at 8:07am


Steven Martin
Steven Martin How does the 2×32 go on 4 motors?
August 28 at 4:42am


Simon Arthur
Simon Arthur I’ll let you know.
August 28 at 7:47am


Angus Deveson
Angus Deveson You won’t be happy
August 29 at 7:10am


Simon Arthur
Simon Arthur Fine during the test drive.
1 Like August 29 at 7:31am



Parts Organization and Storage

Ever since seeing Adam Savage discuss his Sortimo T Boxes, I’ve been looking at similar storage cases. All of the boxes listed below have a carrying handle, snap closed, have clear tops so you can see your parts without opening the case, removable bins (not just removable dividers) so you can customize the storage to your needs AND remove an individual bin for working elsewhere. The better quality, more expensive ones, like Sortimo and Raaco will retain parts better when they’re held like a briefcase by the handle. The cheaper ones, like StoreHouse,  might have a softer, slightly warpable lid which allows small thin parts like washers and roll pins to escape into another bin.

Most manufacturers below make more than one box. They come in various depths, with different features.

Mr. Savage’s original video showing the Sortimo boxes:


These are considered top quality and have a price to match. They retail for about $48 just for the empty box or $60 when populated with bins.

These are also re-branded by Bosch in the US and sell for slightly less.

Discussion thread regarding Sortimo boxes.

Sortimo Website.


Allit Modular Storage Cases

These come in both “Economy” and “Professional” grades with a corresponding difference in price and quality.

Available on the Lee Valley website.


Stanley FatMax Organizers

The Stanley website doesn’t seem to have all of the cases that are available, so you may want to check Google Shopping, Amazon, etc. for all models. These seem to be medium price & quality.



The first time I saw in parson someone use a handled, clear top, removable bin case, it was a DeWalt case owned by Mike Jeffries of the BattleBots team Chaos Corps. I also noticed at Dragon Con this year that these boxes were popular among Magic the Gathering players for storing cards.

Note that the internal handle slot takes away space from the bins.

These seem to be medium price & quality like the Stanley ones.

Organizers on the DeWalt website.


StoreHouse (Harbor Freight)

The king of the low end, these are available at everyone’s favorite cheap tool store, Harbor Freight. The medium size cases are available for as little as $6 during a sale or with a good coupon.

Like the DeWalt, the internal handle slot takes away space from the bins.



These are the only ones I have had a significant amount of hands on experience with. I bought cases of each size recently to compare them. The Small and Medium have interchangeable bins.

These do get the job done, but I am afraid of small thin parts jumping between bins as the bin walls are warped, and the top doesn’t get a very good positive lock on them. Still, they do get the job done. I especially like the small size bins, which many of the other midrange designs don’t have.


Internal handle. Another mid-range entry. The non-rectangular shapes in the corners are a little strange.

The Stack On website.


Marko Tools

This appears to be a  UK centric brand and looks just like the StoreHouse cases, but redder.

Other names these cases are sold under include “Sealey”. A Google Image search also turns up pictures of these cases in purple.

Available on Amazon.





This appears to be another high end brand similar to Sortimo. Their Boxser and Carrylite lines both have clear lids and removable bins.  These are mostly available in the UK.

The removable bins are translucent. I’m not sure if I like that. It seems like it would reduce the contrast with any parts that are inside.

The Raaco website.



They sell several  StoreHouse clones under this brand name, as well as the ones shown below with an outside handle. According to the Tactical Wargaming blog, the bins are compatible with Raaco.

They’re available from MCM Electronics.


Next, I’m going to look into getting a rack for my storage cases.

Any I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments.

Edit: some brands just discovered: Milwaukee, Husky, Keter, and Alutec.